Friday, October 29, 2004

Things are looking up


I don't know if you noticed, but the Canada Council is in the process of changing the way the way they offer grants to Visual Artists.

They're coming to Montreal on November 2nd to explain things to everybody. But the thing that I like best is that they are going to be giving 100 grants of $5,000 each to artists having their first solo exhibition.

Things seem to be looking up.

See you there.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

My interview with Eduardo Kac


I think that things are finally getting back to normal, although I am also getting the strange feeling that "normal" actually means "abnormal." Whatever.

Back, eons ago, I interviewed Eduardo Kac when he was here for the Biotech and Art conference. I emailed him the transcript of the interview to see if there were any changes he wanted to make, I haven't heard back from him, so I either have to assume that he, too had a hard drive failure and lost my address, or that everything is a-ok.

I'm going with the later.

I also was thinking of writing some running commentary to go along with the interview, but then decided that the commentary should be separate. So, tomorrow (or maybe later) I will as a separate entry.

If you would like details on who and what Eduardo Kac is click on the link.

Interview with Eduardo Kac, October 8, 2004

ZEKE: You said on the walk over here that artists creating life is a new and major thing. Why do you think it is a big thing?

EDUARDO KAC: I think the most fundamental difference is when you create a living being, you're not creating an object, you're creating a subject. And that is a performed departure. When you understand that you're creating a subject, you can't create a subject as you create an object, so everything becomes very different. A subject calls for a relationship, not a nail to hang on a wall, not a pedestal to put it on. It calls for care, for interaction, for love, for nurturing to help it grow healthy. So artwork has never presented this demand before.

ZEKE: Once you get into archivists there are parallels. And then there's the white cube speak about your engagement with your object and so on. I can see that there are similar things happening, with regular art and living art, for lack of better terms.

EDUARDO KAC: Well, no. The one thing is to try to prevent the decay and deterioration of an object, the other is to help a living being to grow and to develop into maturity in a manner that is healthy and fosters a relationship. Why? Because a living being can love you back. An object that is being prevented from decay can't love you back.

ZEKE: OK, where does the idea to create a living organism come from? I could pick up a paintbrush but I'm not a terribly good painter, so I don't. I could pick up a hammer and chisel but I can't sculpt to save my life. Where does the idea come from to make life?

EDUARDO KAC: That is an old idea. That idea has been part of culture, I think, from the beginning.

ZEKE: I mean, specifically in your case.

EDUARDO KAC: Were you there for my presentation?

ZEKE: Yes. I saw you present the progression of your works. Like, "I can make Alba." Where did that come from, when did it happen? I can see from your works that it follows logically from what you have done in the past, but that instant, that "eureka!" moment for the lack of a better cliché.

EDUARDO KAC: I'm not sure I know how to answer that. The "eureka!" moment would imply either a separate instance or a peak in a continuum, and I don't think I have experienced either. Yes and no, that's a complicated question. I'm not really sure how to answer that. Because it's both. It is not what I said but in a way also, it is. So, I'm not really sure how to answer it. It is not because, for me, my creative process is a continuum. I summarized in 40 minutes more than 20 years of work. One thing has taken me to the next without me being able to see… I can talk about the past that way. I can see how I got here, but I can't say that about the next 20 years. I can't do that because it a continuum. I don't have the ability to see it from the outside, that way.

ZEKE: It's the same thing with the gallery. If you asked me the same question, I can say I recognize exactly where the idea for the gallery came from and I can talk about what's going to happen to the gallery in the next five years. There's a bunch of ideas and I don't know which one is going to stick, which one is going to work. I was talking to my friend Bertrand and I have been hammering him for five years saying, "Let's do a show." That is the kernel from which the gallery came. With Alba, I would imagine, there is some sort of kernel that sort of along the same lines as talking to your wife and saying, "Yes. Let's have a child." Sometimes, it's "Ooops, honey I'm pregnant." There's still that kernel there, and that's where it came from. With Alba, is there any sort of...

EDUARDO KAC: It really doesn't come from a radical departure or a peak of any sort. I say "yes" and "no" because in a way it became such a radical departure, it didn't come from it, it became it. That's what I'm saying. It comes from everything I said yesterday. It comes from a long trajectory of looking for alternative modes of communication, studying the human language, intersubjectivity.

ZEKE: To be clear, you have a specific day where you were drinking coffee, were you talking with somebody?

EDUARDO KAC: No. There's no "eureka!" moment. It's an evolving process. But in the larger temporal scale, it did become a peak in the continuum because it is a project unlike any project I've ever engaged in, and quite possibly unlike anything else I might ever…

ZEKE: How do you feel about the reaction you've gotten?

EDUARDO KAC: As I said yesterday, from the beginning, it was to generate public debate but I could not see that the debate would be so vast, that it would continue for such a long time, and that it would happen at such a large physical scale around the globe, trickling down to children's classrooms, as well as PhD classrooms, and everything in between. That I couldn't foresee.

ZEKE: Why not? You were playing God. I would say, "Yeah, that's pretty big stuff once you toss that out there."

EDUARDO KAC: It was not my first transgenic work. It was not my first biological work, either. The first transgenic work I presented was Genesis, the one in which I incurred the Biblical passage. In a way, I don't want to compare the two, although they relate. Genesis has been traveling for the past five years non stop. There are several different versions on the road. It has been shown in Paris, it has been shown in New York, it has been many American cities, it has been shown in Japan, etc. I think Genesis has been shown in more venues than any work of mine. Traveling nonstop for the past five years, it has been shown in a lot of places. It's on view right now in Illinois, there's an invitation to show it in Shanghai next year. It's just where I'm going. To a certain degree, it has been shown more than the bunny. But because the promiscuous semiotics that I spoke of yesterday, Alba became a mean that self-proliferates.

ZEKE: To my mind there is a slight difference, not to diminish the Genesis project, but a bunch of sand in a bottle with some gold stuff and some tablets is completely different.

EDUARDO KAC: That's not the project, that's an aspect of the project. The project was the installation. In which I encoded a biblical passage in bacteria and took the bacteria to the gallery and enabled people on the internet to change the word of God in the body of the bacteria, and that was brought back to the laboratory, revealing the mutation that people did inside the body of the bacteria of the biblical passage.

ZEKE: You talk about Alba is a living subject and Genesis is, despite the transgenic nature of it and to the general public, an art project.

EDUARDO KAC: It begs the question of are the bacteria not subjects? People buy antibacterial soap to kill the bacteria. But, these are living organisms as well.

ZEKE: Dealing with popular perceptions, that's where Alba took off. If you were talk to the general population, or standard issue journalists, that's were the stuff takes off. Dealing with bacteria, an anthrax scare where 20,000 theoretically could die. That would fill up the column inches and make the headlines. Anything less than that, they're not going to be interested.

EDUARDO KAC: It does capture the public's imagination. But of course that's important, but that's not an end in itself. What you are doing as an artist and the continuity of that artistic idiom that you're developing, that's what you leave behind.

ZEKE: To come back, rephrase the question a little bit, with the reaction to stuff, were you happy?

EDUARDO KAC: The reaction to the project was so massive and so diverse that it became extremely interesting. Other works have received critical attention and public commentary and views and whatnot. But there's something, I recognize, that's very different about this project. In the other cases where I had critical commentary and professional commentary. What was unique about Alba was that it went beyond that circle, far beyond that circle which made the diversity of the responses very interesting. So I started to work at that level.

ZEKE: Which can be said about any piece of art.

EDUARDO KAC: Not necessarily, you take a Picasso painting. It's not a piece that by design inserts itself in a circle that has the objective to generate public discussion.

ZEKE: One of the things that made him a household name worldwide was to have that reaction on so many levels with so many different people.

EDUARDO KAC: That may be true, but it wasn't part of the piece. It's not intrinsic to that rectangular shape that's hanging on the wall. It's not a physical part of the piece. It's a consequence, maybe. In my case, we have a design from the outside. At the same time that I imagined her and started to make contacts to find a lab to actually create her, at that moment the idea of public debate was embedded, was an intrinsic part of the piece itself.

ZEKE: Then step back. When it went so far and wide, and you said you weren't expecting that, if it was an intrinsic part of the piece, did you expect it to stay within the academic/professional sphere?

EDUARDO KAC: I expected it to go a little bit beyond, but I didn't expect it to last so long and to be, physically, so global. That's where it became so interesting. I did expect the piece to go beyond the critical and academic circles but I couldn't see how far beyond and I thought the impact would last for a year, but not much longer.

ZEKE: When you're making a piece of art that does touch people, it spreads like wildfire, to make a bad joke, like a virus. Whether it's regular art or non-standard art. That is the intended consequence of any art piece. Unfortunately, many of them don't live up to that standard, and so, as a consequence, don't get that reaction.

EDUARDO KAC: I don't know if that's true. The difference is that when the public discussion around a new idea that is, by design, created as an intervention in the given social practice, that's the case here, that's different. Usually art functions within it's own realm. But the idea of creating a new being and bringing her home definitely operates in the social realm. It bridges the privacy of the gallery, the privacy of the lab, the privacy of the home. By making these bridges, that happens in the public realm. That gesture is an intrinsic part of the piece. For that to be as much part of a work as a brushstroke, it's different from people watching something and talking about that something. That's something external to the work. I'm saying that it's internal to the work, in case. And this is also why it's so different than my other pieces. That which could be a goal in other cases, that goal would be external to the work itself. But in this case, the discussion, the debate, the public presence, is internal to the work.

ZEKE: If it is integral to the piece, but at the same time you didn't anticipate the response, isn't that like saying "I'm using a paintbrush that's blue, but it's coming out purple. And, yeah I think I can live with the purple."

EDUARDO KAC: It's more than the purple. It's more like, wow! Purple!

ZEKE: So is that a good thing?

EDUARDO KAC: Yeah, but particularly in that case, because I'm interested in the unexpected, and when the unexpected happens, you welcome it. It's like improvising in a jam session. Your neighbor just played a note... there's no score. They just played a note. You have to be able to recognize how that resonates with everything else that's going on. And that has to happen immediately so you can play your next note. So it's that ability I'm talking about, that improvisational ability, based on a trajectory that allows you to have that ability. To be able to recognize something that in other cases could be perceived as inconsequential, or ephemeral, or of no particular potential, but being able to recognize what's before you as something that can be further transformed and brought to the fold and put out again and continue...

ZEKE: So I am correct in understanding that you're happy with what the reaction has been?

EDUARDO KAC: Uhh. Whether somebody feels that your work is ethically inadmissible or if they recognize the formal and philosophical seriousness and commitment that I have and the contribution that it makes and everything in between only makes it richer. So I welcome all kinds of responses and I respect them equally.

ZEKE: With the ethical issues, how did you sit them right with yourself?

EDUARDO KAC: That was the greatest challenge. Technologically speaking, there was no mystery to the project. The big challenge was precisely that. I didn't want to do anything that would imply suffering, or torturing, or anything like that. I spent a lot of time studying, I took a course, I read a lot, I interviewed scientists. I did a lot of research to understand. When I was planning the idea… first of all, I was like, "Is this feasible?", "What does this imply?", "Will there be any issues here on that level?". Then it became clear that this gene has been expressed in every type of cell in the lab. And all the organisms that procreated didn't change in any particular way other than having the green light. There has been no change in behavior, no change in form. It became evident that there was no suffering involved. That's when I understood that it would be perfectly fine to do this, not anything. Some people have the false impression that it's all right to do anything. No, you can't. You can't for several reasons. First, life doesn't allow you to. You can't make a marble sculpture out of oil paint or a paper drawing out of wood. Each material has it's logic. Life is a medium that has it's logic so you can't do whatever you want.

ZEKE: One thing that struck me about Alba, it's a step towards somebody saying, "Yeah, I want a kid, blonde with blue eyes, 6'4", and an IQ 180." Alba makes this possible, makes the awareness of it out there, and that future steps... that's where I get very uncomfortable with it. Because it is that sort of future consequence.

EDUARDO KAC: On a technical level, Alba does not lead to that. There is a general impression, which is a false impression, that traits have single causes. In some cases, you can do that, but those are exceptions. Most complex traits have multiple causes. No single gene can account for intelligence.

ZEKE: "Artist creates neon-green bunny." Large headline. Further steps down the line, "Scientist develops technique to guarantee blond hair." Same big headline. I recognize that technically right now it is not possible…

EDUARDO KAC: It raises the awareness of the dangers of such a scenario, yes, and that's part of the issue. But it's not the same thing. To use a marker that attaches itself to every cell of the body is profoundly different from tweaking or adding genes to generate a blue eye.

ZEKE: It is the thin edge of the wedge in public perception. They aren't worried about markers. They say, "Oh, a neon-green bunny. Maybe in twenty years I'll be able to have the child of my dreams." To me, that's when I was asking about ethics, and you wanted to make sure that there was no suffering, that's fine and good, to me there's other implications that come. It's like a butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing and I feel a breeze here in Montréal.

EDUARDO KAC: But that's not going to happen. It will not be possible to have a child with blue eyes or a specific intelligence.

ZEKE: But I'm talking about public perception. Also, I guarantee to you, in twenty years from now, it will be possible.

EDUARDO KAC: I don't think so. Complex traits have multiple causes. To make a gene here and there and achieve these things...

ZEKE: 10 years ago, Bill Gates said, "256 K is enough memory for everybody".

EDUARDO KAC: It is another belief. I don't believe that is possible. Suppose that technically, you could control the blue eye or even affect intelligence, maybe the result is someone who is socially inept. Or dies at a young age. Like you said, actions have consequences. And you're not going to know because you're doing experimentation on humans. I can see how in China because they already do it.

ZEKE: They do it right here in Montréal.

EDUARDO KAC: What do you mean?

ZEKE: You know the about the Raelians cloning. They meet right down the street at their headquarters where they get all their new cult members. It's right down the street.

EDUARDO KAC: They don't have the technology.

ZEKE: They got as much press as you did.

EDUARDO KAC: They don't have a lab.

ZEKE: I haven't looked and I wouldn't talk to them, but it's more the question of public perception. They said they cloned somebody and BAM! they had thousands of journalists following their every move.

EDUARDO KAC: I can see how countries that have different rules would pursue that. You had that Italian specialist in human reproduction working on human cloning. And he was doing that somewhere in Asia where the government has more direct control over things. So, I can see how there would be a human clone, I'm not against that. A clone is not a copy. There's a public perception that a clone is a carbon copy or a photocopy, but it's not. There are a lot of variables that play a role in how an organism develops and this is the same thing that I'm saying. Even if you were able to isolate the sequence that's responsible for blue eyes, I don't know if the sequence being there or not being there will affect the development of that organism in other ways, even though I have never tried. So, in that sense, it's conceivable that in countries like China and Korea, and even in Iran, that have advanced technology and dictatorial control, that human experimentation would happen. Canada has banned the patenting of life. You cannot patent a life form in Canada. I think that's a good thing.

ZEKE: You say you don't like patenting of life forms, but as an artist, you have copyright. Do you have copyrights on Alba?

EDUARDO KAC: No. If you want to make your own green bunny, you can. You can patent a process, not a being. That being is an individual. There is a set of personhood to animals that is different from human personhood. And these are new philosophical ideas, very new, that a lot of people will probably laugh at today, but not in 20 years. So, you wouldn't patent a human being for the same reason you shouldn't patent another living being. You can patent a technique. You could patent a synthetic gene but not a gene... I should not have the right to patent a gene that I take from you. That would be ridiculous. It's a part of you. But if I invent a gene then I should be able to patent it.

ZEKE: Adam Zaretsky pointed out in his talk, he got legal rights to a whole whack of people's genes.

EDUARDO KAC: Well, there are hundreds of companies that have patents on genes that happen to be part of most humans.

ZEKE: What shouldn't be done and what is being done are very frequently two wildly separate things depending on who's doing it and who says you can't do it. There are certain things that should not be done, period and obviously my line is drawn differently than yours is. And what freaks me greatly is how you got there.

EDUARDO KAC: And that's the subject of yesterday's overview.

ZEKE: It's more the thought process in the creation of life in that you say it's not all right to patent but it is all right to clone. That thought process.

EDUARDO KAC: Because patenting is ownership. It's private ownership of something that belongs to humanity. Cloning is just a reproductive method. We have been cloning plants for thousands of years. It's no big deal. It's just another way of propagating life. One retains what is the property of humanity in the interest of people and the other enables new beings to come to life. Cloning is another way of reproducing.

ZEKE: If it's that simple, fine and dandy. But it's not that simple.

EDUARDO KAC: We have been cloning plants for thousands of years.

ZEKE: Slaves were around for a whole whack of time as well. It doesn't make it right.

EDUARDO KAC: You're right. That's not a sufficient argument. If you make a hybrid plant with certain properties, it cannot reproduce itself. If you want to propagate that plant, the only way to do it is by cutting it and planting that cutting and allowing it to propagate. That's cloning. That causes no harm to anyone. If you give a rose on Valentine's Day, that's a clone.

ZEKE: I don't remember whose talk it was during the conference, but hearing some cells scream…

EDUARDO KAC: If the cell is screaming... you take the movement of a cell and translating that into sound and amplifying the sound. That's a human gesture. It's not that the cell itself is screaming. It's like what I did with my plant project. The plant has a voltage fluctuation and, sensing that, I translated it back to the sound that you heard. That is a human gesture. The plant is not making a sound. I'm enabling the plant to make a sound.

ZEKE: You mentioned the personification of animals...

EDUARDO KAC: The personhood of animals, being different than the personhood of humans.

ZEKE: Right now, we don't have the ability to tell if the cloning of a plant is painful, disruptive, anxiety causing.

EDUARDO KAC: A scientist said that a vegetarian is a person who cannot hear the cry of a carrot.

ZEKE: In twenty years, if we can...

EDUARDO KAC: That is a good question. Part of my work is investigating these types of questions. But I don't see morally, in principle, that one reproductive method being better or worse than another. In vitro fertilization, for example.

ZEKE: I have some friends that are going through it and it's costing them way too much money and causing way to much anxiety and they came in with the idea that it's guaranteed.

EDUARDO KAC: But I'm sure that they were told when they came in that it's not the case.

ZEKE: But it's the perception of. Yes they were told...

EDUARDO KAC: You can't blame the procedure for the hope that they have when they arrive at the procedure. It would be very unfair. They were told exactly what was going to happen. And the fact that they were very emotionally involved because of the hopes that they had, that should not be confused with the procedure itself. That they go through a difficult period, of course, they're trying to have a child. Imagine that technique not being there. They would have less of a chance in that case.

ZEKE: There are other ways.

EDUARDO KAC: Why didn't they pursue those?

ZEKE: There's adoption. If you don't have the ability to cross the Atlantic in under an hour, because there's no more Concord, you go with something else and still get there. At which point, a slow boat, that would be nice.

EDUARDO KAC: Those are fine choices but you can't tell the rest of the world to stop doing your thing because that's not how I want you to do it. Don't fly the Concord because I would rather take this other route. If other people want to fly the Concord, they should have the freedom to fly the Concord. It's giving them an option that they don't have to pursue if they don't want to. They are not obliged to do in vitro fertilization. The option is there. They could adopt or they could go childless. Tomorrow, there will be bunch of other techniques. Cloning will be one of them. They may choose or not.

ZEKE: I feel that an awful lot of people are not going to be as responsible once things become easier. Back in the 1930s when airline travel was first happening, people dressed up in their Sunday best and there would be champagne on board. Now you get on the shuttle between Boston and Washington and anybody can walk up onto the plane.

EDUARDO KAC: I don't see a problem with that. It's just the way it is. It's become more common. It's become a part of culture. There's a new plane that goes to space.

ZEKE: There's a difference between responsible use and non-responsible use.

EDUARDO KAC: The research continues and I'm sure that, if they can, they will improve the reproductive rate of in vitro fertilization. Just because it's 1 to 4 now doesn't mean that it will continue to be that way as you pointed out yourself. In twenty years it will not continue to be that way.

ZEKE: However, talking about the larger things like cloning. What is the logical conclusion that happens there? Is it that everybody is saying that it's just a new way of having a kid for those who can't have kids other ways.

EDUARDO KAC: And that's exactly the way I see it. It will be an alternative for those who can't do it in other ways.

ZEKE: To my mind, the ultimate use of it is not going to be for that. It's not going to be for people for who can't do in vitro.

EDUARDO KAC: I don't think so. It will be regulated by demand. Any other purpose will not work. If you try to clone an army and you clone your best soldier. It's not going to work that way.

ZEKE: More in terms as in "I'm rich and famous and extremely powerful and I'm 90 years old and about to kick the bucket". That's where cloning comes in so they continue to live forever.

EDUARDO KAC: But it doesn't work that way. It won't work for that purpose.

ZEKE: Why not?

EDUARDO KAC: That being is a being himself or herself. It's a new being. Nothing of the other person transfers other than the genes.

ZEKE: But the public perception...

EDUARDO KAC: In time it will correct itself because it's false. The first person who is 98 years old and clones himself and then a new person is born who doesn't look like him, doesn't do anything like him, little by little it will become evident and the perception will correct itself. It's getting to the point I'm going to have to go. Look at cartoons in the 1950s. What made people laugh in 1954 was a cartoon of a television host who was a woman from another show - scared because the television host was looking at her. What television is has become very evident to us and the perception corrects itself. Just as you pointed out, just because things are seen one way now doesn't mean they will be seen in the same way 20 years from now.

ZEKE: Thank you very much for your time, I found it very interesting.

EDUARDO KAC: You're welcome.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The 9 Beet Stretch Performance at Zeke's


We're in the midst of a performance of 9 Beet Stretch, thought you might like some pictures.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Reasons to be cheerful, part 3


Sorry for the lack of posts since the weekend, but I suffered through a hard drive failure.

I should be back up and running by tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Nicolas Ritoux hangs with the freaks


It has now been more than a week, but as I mentioned back then I was at the Biotech and Art Conference and I had a grand old time. I've finished transcribing my interview with Eduardo Kac, an am now in the midst of editing it. It will be interesting to see how it compares to this article by M. Ritoux, about the conference that appeared in La Presse last week.

I can tell you right off the bat, I won't be referring to anybody as "savants fous" which Babelfish and Google translate as "insane scientists."

Friday, October 15, 2004

Once again, I'm late to the party


I don't know how I missed this one, but thankfully I did stumble across it.

In a nutshell, András Szántó and Daniel S. Levy write that newspaper coverage of the Arts is going to heck in a handbasket. I would agree wholeheartedly, and despite their touting the "alternative" press, here in Montreal none of the four weeklies do the Arts as they should.

Mr. Szántó, for those of you who aren't aware, is director of the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, which looks to me like a kick-ass program. Believe it or not, Mr. Levy writes for People magazine.

One of the reasons that when I write about Arts coverage here in town I count the words (or more accurately get the computer to count the words) is so that there is some quantitative information about the coverage. When Nicolas Mavrikakis' articles went from about 700+ words to 400+ words it was as plain as the nose on your face that something was changing with regards to Visual Arts converage in Voir.

Tie the op-ed piece by Mr. Szántó and Mr. Levy in with the recent Art Blogging Love Fest that happened, and sure as shootin' something's up.

Thursday, October 14, 2004



You betcha!

For some explanation for you out-of-towners look at who the ISP is. If you would like it slightly more obvious, click here.

It would all be fine and dandy, you know some staff sargent looking for his or her cultural fix, if back in August, somebody from the Executive Office of the President hadn't also checked out the blog. Combine that with the various .mil hits that I've gotten, and while I'm not shaking in my boots, my eyebrow is cocked at an angle.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004



Apparently in my giddiness, I completely forgot about the readers of Voir. Now for the record, I don't mind them having and using comments on the web site, but apparently they are printing them in the paper version, too. Nobody has told me that they are paying the commenters, and I wish that somebody would tell me that they do in fact pay the commenters who get published, but like Maisonneuve magazine does with visual artists, Voir prefers to get their content for free.

That all being said, I think I like the commenters more than M. Mavrikakis, some of the kick-ass lines: (all my rough and easy translations) "how could the government have given $600K to the Molson Ex Regatta in Valleyfield?" - Richard Éthier

"The Old Montreal Star building..." - Yves Lalonde (Although everybody is reporting the biennale as taking place in the old Montreal Gazette building, they in fact only occupied it for 23 years or so, it was built and used by the now defunct Montreal Star for far longer.)

If the commenters are indeed representative of the general public then M. Gosselin can take heart, six commenters, all six like the biennale, albeit for a variety of reasons.

The Biennale de Montréal is, how can I say it...?


I figured that enough had time had passed so that I could look up what had been written about the the Biennale, and I think it can be summed up best by Ilania Abileah's web site about it. When I visited it, her site counter proudly declared that the page had been viewed 37 times. I promptly hit reload, and bumped it up to 38.

Her site is nicely done, lotsa pictures, no real commentary. Given her work I'm very happy that they she left the job to me.

I got a tad confused by this site, but then I added "2004" to my Google search, and everything became clearer - although as far as most people are concerned I'm certain that they could read this review of the 2002 biennale and would not realize that there had been significant changes in two years.

Then, the deviantArt site has some of the most pithy comments about the biennale. One of my favorites is: "montreal rocks ...come see us." Highly recommended

Then before we hit the "big boys" let me point out fictionalart's blog where they make mention of the biennale.

The Big Boys:
Montreal Mirror, Catherine Redfern, September 30 - 216 words
Hour Magazine, Isa Tousignant, September 30 - 396 words
Le Devoir, Bernard Lamarche, October 2 - 1,439 words
La Presse, Jerome Delgado, October 3 - 975 words
Voir, Nicolas Mavrikakis, October 7 - 816 words
Voir, readers (Andrée Proulx, Richard Éthier, Yves Lalonde, Chantal Valade, Karine Dupuis, and Paul Daoust) subsequent days - 1,293 words
Total= 5,135 words

Ms. Redfern repeats the gossip floating around about the biennale, but then comes to Armand Vaillancourt's defense separating him out from the other stuff happening. There's only so much that can be dealt with in such little space, but she seems to give it a thumbs up.

Ms. Tousignant takes the other side of the coin, she doesn't like it, makes no bones about it, doesn't like Armand Vaillancourt's work, makes no bones about it, and just to drive the point home it starts in the eighth paragraph of her column. [Ethics alert - in the 13th paragraph she mentions the Chris Dyer exhibit that just finished here.]

M. Lamarche does a yeoman's job of trying to give a reporter's overview of the whole kit and caboodle, his first four paragraphs deal with Claude Gosselin's difficulties, reported here as fact, not gossip. Interesting, that he would decide to lead with that bit of information. He then jumps into the art Ed Kostiner gets one paragraph. Armand Vaillancourt gets six, but I think he ends up hanging on the same side of the fence as Ms. Tousignant, his last line is: "il y a longtemps que la production de Vaillancourt, qui roule sur son fond de commerce, ne sert qu'à alimenter son propre mythe." (or in the blokespeak computer translation: "for a long time the production of Vaillancourt, which rolls on its goodwill, is only used to feed its own myth"). He then proceeds to give Ève Robidoux one paragraph, Rajak Ohanian four (!) where he complains about how M. Gosselin decided to spend his precious cash, and then ties everything up with one paragraph about Will Alsop.

If you've been keeping score, we so far have two reviewers who dislike the biennale and one who likes it. Unfortunately the negative folk have used more words.

M. Delgado seems to stradle the fence, reporting on the difficulties, flitting around from artist to artist without really saying much of significance "Sauf qu'entre les travaux superficiels (les photos d'Ed Kostiner, spectaculaires vues à vol d'oiseau)" ["Except that between surface work (photographs of Ed Kostiner, spectacular sights with flight of bird)"]. He ends his article with a hope that this is not the "swan song" for M. Gosselin.

Then finally M. Mavrikakis piles on. He starts out with a bang, stating that the biennale is poor, but there is a pun in there, as everybody knows M. Gosselin's money difficulties. He limits his reportage to two paragraphs at the end where he mentions all the artists. Before that, he whines on endlessly about previous biennales, exhibition theory, an aside about how wonderfully superlative he thinks Geneviève Cadieux's work is (in the first freakin' paragraph, does he want to bear her love child, or what?) The thing that brought a smile to my face was his line "nous avons pu voir défiler à Montréal une liste impressionnante d'artistes. Je ne les nommerai pas;" (my non-computer blokespeak translation: "we could make a very impressive list of artists. But I won't name them") Given that I previously and repeatedly pointed out his habit of name dropping, excuse me for becoming a little giddy when I read that. But then if you scroll down, I realized it was to be a short lived giddiness. He then writes this: "Je pense à Raphaëlle de Groot, Massimo Guerrera, Marie-Suzanne Désilets, Sylvie Cotton, Diane Borsato, Mathieu Beauséjour... L'Action terroriste socialement acceptable (ATSA)..." Does anybody know if there is a twelve-step program for name dropping?

Final score: Three against, one for, one fence sitter. I guess I gotta get around to see it when they aren't serving drinks and let y'all know what I think.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

More on Harvey S. Shipley Miller


Way back in July, I posted Mr. Miller's address here, because there had been what I called "a puff piece" in the New York Magazine. What I did not mention at the time, was shortly after posting it, I got a telephone call from Mr. Miller. More on that later.

As the article in New York Mag mentioned, he indeed is donating a whack of drawings to a museum. Initially it was supposed to be MOMA, as the New York Times reported back at the end of September. Todd, over at From the Floor, analyzed the situation in detail, making the point that everybody seems aghast that initially Mr. Miller said that it was an all or nothing deal, but according to Benjamin Genocchio's article, it had transformed into something quite different. "'The collection is not being presented to them as an all-or-nothing gift,' Mr. Miller said." Given that "the drawings will be officially offered in January..." I'm not certain what the tempest in a teapot was all about, except that it might have been a slow news day in the Art World (aren't all of them like that?).

What I found most interesting was that a mere two days before the article in the NYTimes, they published a book review (omigosh!) on a book by Meryle Secrest called "Duveen: A Life in Art." The business of Art has always been cloudy, sometimes it is downright pitch black. Given the details in the review (and in the Getty Museum exhibit on the Business of Art) about Mr. Duveen, what Mr. Miller is doing is not new.

As for the phone call, it was quite cool. Mr. Miller was quite concerned with his phone number being published on the internet (I had initially put that up, too). What I pointed out to him, was that the information is readily available in any phone book, none the less, I agreed to remove his phone number.

But, it became evident, after chatting for a while, that he was at least feigning interest in Zeke's Gallery. And that is exactly what I am here for. As I mention about a gazillion times an hour, despite "record attendance" at museums there are not enough people who give a rat's ass about visual art. From my experience, it is precisely because most of them consider it the equivalent of voodoo mumbo jumbo.

There ain't no reason in the world that regular folk, who can be assumed to be reasonably intelligent should have this reaction. So, I do my darndest to make the whole shebang as open, inviting and comfortable as possible, to as many people as possible. If I'm getting through to Mr. Miller, then I sorta think that I am doing my job. Props to him, for having his eyes open enough so that new stuff could get through to his brain.

Monday, October 11, 2004

And still more interviews


I think somebody else should be in charge of compiling all of these. In going through some of the less immediate posts By Todd Gibson at From the Floor I realized I had spaced again! Jeez, somebody should take me outside and shake me hard.

He had at the end of last month a series of posts that were a discussion with Petra Arends of the UBS Art Collection. The discussion was superlative, and made even more delicious because curators of corporate art don't speak in public all that much.

Part one is here

Part two is here
Part three is here

Choice line: "I have nothing hanging in my office."

More Interviews


I spaced, dropped the ball, and then booted it. Apologies to Anna L. Conti who has been interviewing San Francisco artists faster and better than I have been doing here on this side of the continent.

She's got some seriously kick-ass interviews with Kay Weber, Sandra Yagi, Saundra McPherson, Teresa Newson, Eric Joyner, and started the whole shebang off with what she called a "conversation" with David Holmes and Larry Morace.

I think I like the "conversation" best, as it is less structured, but the most enlightening detail in all of them comes from Teresa Newson who says "and I have room mates who don't like the smell of turpentine, I can't use oils." I never considered before how roommates could limit creativity.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Hmmm, how much for that archive?


Came across this interesting tidbit last week. According to the CBC the Blue Rodeo archives are going to be housed somewhere on the University of Toronto.

The thing that caught my eye was this line "...the band’s archives, valued at $800,000..." Hmmm, 20 years worth of "unreleased soundtracks, thousands of photographs, video footage from concerts and awards shows as well as personal memorabilia" comes in at $40K/year for a band that wasn't real cutting edge. As I have been archiving every damn thing that happens here since day one, I wonder if I could find the person who did the evaluation, and see if I couldn't swing some sort of deal to donate the Zeke's Gallery archives to Concordia or somebody. Six years worth of archives would turn into a tax receipt for $240K. I'm certain it wouldn't hurt.

Interviews with Ed Ruscha and Richmond Burton


As I have taken to doing interviews with the artists who exhibit here (Toly Kouroumalis and Chris Dyer) and I have interviews with Dominique Blain, Eduardo Kac and Steve Kurtz in the can waiting on corrections and/or transcription, I thought it would be a good idea to bring interviews with Ed Ruscha and Richmond Burton to your attention.The Ruscha is from the Frieze Magazine websiteand the Burton is from the Artnet website.

Late news


While I have been pretty focused on BioArt stuff, there have been other things happening in town that deserve some attention. If you missed it, Le Devoir reported that Sylvie Gilbert is moving out of town. She used to run the gallery at the Saidye Bronfman Centre, and now she's heading for the mountains.

It is always disappointing when someone moves on, but I wish her luck in Banff, and I hope that the search committee does as well this time, replacing her, as they did in finding her.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Brilliance at every turn!


As I mentioned I've been at this Biotech and Art conference at the Musée d'Art Contemporain. And boy, oh boy! Has it been fun!

Some of the things you missed (unless of course, you were there) Suzanne Anker rocks my world! Joe Davis is freakin' brilliant!! Ted Kreuger is my definition of a very heavy thinker. Adam Zaretsky is fun, and as he said he does it first then asks questions, which given what he's doing is pretty damn cool. Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr were the coolest folk in attendance.

I'm going to try to follow this up (over the weekend) with a more thorough post, complete with links and more details.

In the interim, if you're reading this before 3:45 today, and have some free time, swing by to see Steve Kurtz talk.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Sketchy posting until Friday


I'm going to be away from the gallery for the most part until Friday. The Art and Biotechnologies Colloquium is happening at the Musée d’art contemporain.

For what it is worth these are the presentations that I'm keen on seeing:
Adam Zaretsky, Artist; Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
Joe Davis, Research affiliate and artist in residence, Department of Biology, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Eduardo Kac, Artist; The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Suzanne Anker , Artist; School of Visual Arts, NYC
Ted Krueger, Architect, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
Olliver Dyens, Professeur, Université Concordia
Critical art ensemble (Steve Kurtz) Artist; SUNY, Buffalo

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Le Devoir does Le Musée d'art contemporain


Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I'm still in catch up mode, gimme a break, ok? I'm writing as fast as I can.

Two weeks ago, Le Devoir devoted what looked like an entire freakin' section to the Musée d'Art Contemporain. First, as I only saw it on line, I would love to know what the breakdown of the ads in the print edition was. Second, I'd love to have been a fly on the wall in Guy Cogeval's office when he saw it.

That all being said, as an extremely generous and over the top way to welcome Marc Mayer into town, I think Le Devoir came through with flying colors. If memory serves, they were the only paper that wrote anything when the announcement was made, and their article after his press conference was head and shoulders above everybody else's. Why then they felt the need to pile it on and on and on, I don't know, but they did.

1. Bernard Lamarche wrote an article about the history of Le Musée d'art contemporain, 1,732 words.
2. Mylène Tremblay wrote an article about the near future of the museum, 1,479 words.
3. Bernard Lamarche wrote another article about other people's opinions of the museum, 995 words.
4. Ulysse Bergeron wrote an article about the museum's art collection, 946 words.
5. Ulysse Bergeron wrote a second article about how the museum is a kick-ass place to learn things about art, 933 words.

So if you've been doing your math, that's a total of 6,085 words about Le Musée d'art contemporain. I wonder how many more words they're going to be able to accumulate in between now and December.

As an aside, the museum itself has not been able to figure out how to update their website, yet so as to show the recent changes.

M. Lamarche's first article can be summed up like this: The museum was started in 1964 by Otto Bengle and Georges-Émile Lapalme, because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Before it moved (for the third time, in 1968) it was sorta all over the place and things were difficult. In 1972 they were finally able to score some serious cash from the government and things started to happen. In between 1968 and 1992 there were a bunch of directors. Marcel Brisebois was able to get the museum to move again in 1992 to a place that was too expensive in comparison to MoMA Queens. A guy he quotes a lot throughout the article, Laurier Lacroix, thinks that things are hunky-dory, but as with anything, there is always room for improvement.

Without even reading Mme. Tremblay's article, I can sum it up like this: The suff that's gonna happen at the museum in the fall and winter is going to be amazing! Now, after reading it I should clarify things slightly, Mme. Tremblay says the things that are going to happening at the museum are going to be significant.

M. Lamarche's second article quotes Pierre Théberge, Carl Johnson, and David Moos (respectively a former director of the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, and currently the director of the National Gallery, the director of the Rimouski museum, and the curator of contemporary art at the Art Gallery of Ontario) saying that the MACM rocks. It might've been nice to hear what some people outside of the country thought.

In M. Bergeron's first article the one thing I find interesting, is that he writes that the museum's collection includes 4,225 pieces of art by Quebecois artists, 975 pieces by Canadian artists, and if you do the math ('cuz he doesn't write it) 1,300 pieces by artists not from Canada. Gawd! I love Quebecois Nationalism!

More later, I gotta get back to real work.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Nicolas Mavrikakis on René Donais


As I'm catching up, I'm going to hit each post individually, those thematically linked posts take me an awful long time, perhaps I can use the sheer volume of catch up posts to try to make the lack of posts all right. Again, more than two weeks ago, Mr. Mavrikakis wrote 533 words about René Donais' exhibit at the Galerie Clark. The first thing that struck me was how similar, the image that accompanied the article (or what could pass as an article at less than 600 words) was to the photograph by Richard Avedon in this week's New Yorker magazine (albeit, not available on line, despite Mr. Avedon's untimely death) - look for the article by Calvin Tomkins on Maurizio Cattelan on your next visit to the magazine store.

Picking up where I last left off when discussing M. Mavrikakis, I can't believe his ridiculousness. In his first line M. Mavrikakis states (my translation) "I'm always surprised that the public prefers to watch violence in films or on television instead of in the Visual Arts."

Ummm, not to belabor the obvious but a) I think that the public prefers to watch serious drama, comedy, or just about any damn thing in film or on television instead of in the visual arts. B) Film, and television are acknowledged by M. Mavrikakis as freakin' "low-brow" culture suitable for only the most intellectually challenged people in our society, while Visual Art, is only for the most gifted and intellectual among us (gosh darn it, I'm not even worthy enough to open my eyes sometimes). [ed. note: end sarcasm]

M. Mavrikakis then continues by making a comparison between the Andres Serrano exhibit at the Musée d'Art Contemporain here and the television series "Six Feet Under." Now, (as I've mentioned before) how many people reading M. Mavrikakis' articles are going to remember a ten year old exhibit at the MACM? He finally gets around to his explanation, which goes as follows:
"l'art est toujours ressenti comme un (dur) écho du réel, alors que le cinéma et la télé grand public sont perçus comme présentant des fictions distrayantes qui finissent malgré tout assez bien (même la mort s'y révèle souvent comme une leçon pour tous). Pourtant, l'art nous pose des questions primordiales."

Or my translation: Art is always resented as a (hard) echo of the real, while the public views cinema and television as presenting distressing fictions where everything ends up bad while in real life, everything being all right (even if death is being used as lesson for us). However, Art poses primordial questions.
Obviously M. Mavrikakis missed the point when he went to see Fahrenheit 9/11, and he was too busy to watch (on TV) the debates on TV (the Canadian ones, not US ones that happened after he wrote the article). The freakin' snob attitude of calling every TV show and every film something where there is a comforting distance between the viewer and the people making the art is so simplistic as to almost be laughable, maybe that's why M. Mavrikakis is not getting as much space in the paper as he was back last winter. Gosh! I'd hate to hear what he thinks about radio.

But to get back to M. Donais and his art, M. Mavrikakis spends a grand total of 14 words describing what he saw ["Il a créé une série de gravures s'inspirant d'une femme hirsute ayant vraiment existé" - My translation, also 14 words: He created a series of prints inspired by a hairy woman who really existed.] If you're reviewing an exhibit, I would hope that you would spend more than 3% of your space describing the art.

Then to wrap everything up M. Mavrikakis gets back up on his high horse and flogs the words "confront" and "confrontation" until they are as dead as his high horse. I wonder how he would react to BodyWorlds?



For being incommunicado. Between this, and this, I didn't have much time to write.

Let's see how fast I can catch up today.

Ihor Todoruk in the Montreal Mirror


This catching up is going to be intense... More than two weeks ago, Chris Barry took his column and profiled the owner and power behind Gallery Harwood in Hudson.

Being transportation challenged, I have never visited Mr. Todoruk's gallery, what Yahoo! Maps says should take 52 minutes would take me about 4 hours. However, I have know of Mr. Todoruk's gallery for quite a long time. Eventually, I will get there, I promise.

In the meantime, any gallery getting column inches in a space not normally devoted to art is a really good thing. My favorite line from the interview? "Most vernissages are boring, you have a couple bottles of wine and a few peanuts. My things are events, I really have fun with these things. We have bands and shit. We put on a show."

From what I read, I would agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Todoruk. I think I need to get on his mailing list.